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    Can Cancer Be Prevented?

    by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | August 23rd, 2020

    Can Cancer Be Prevented?

    As part of my continuing medical education, I read an article this past weekend titled Cancer Prevention Strategies for Women1. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in women. The statistics that always amazes me is that 40% of newly diagnosed cancers in the United States are potentially avoidable. What this means to me is that we can actively play a role in preventing some cancers. The article I read reviewed strategies for reducing cancer in average-risk women.

    1. Avoid tobaccoTobacco is the most preventable cause of cancer. Smoking increases your risk of lung cancer and also is associated with some other cancers. All ways that tobacco gets into the body needs to stop – cigarettes, cigars, chewed tobacco, hookah and e-cigarettes. Talk to your health care provider to help you quit smoking. You can call the national quit line network (1-800-QUIT NOW) to help.
    • Maintain a healthy body weightObesity increases the risk of about 13 cancers, the most common uterine cancer. Losing weight is not easy. Do not be afraid to ask for help. You can ask your provider for a referral to a dietician/nutritionist.  Although success is losing weight, if you are someone that has been gaining weight, success may also be not to gain any more weight.
    • Be physically active (exercise at least 30 minutes per day on most days) – What is important to me is that you are moving. I would rather you move every day for 10 minutes, that start out at 30 minutes a day and then stop moving for months.
    • Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and low in saturated fat and trans-fat, red meat, and processed meat – Think about eating real food. Food that is in their natural state for example I am not aware of an animal called frankfurter. Frankfurter is not real food.
    • Limit alcohol consumption – Alcohol is an established cause of cancer of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, colorectal and breast. Limiting or avoiding alcohol consumption can reduce the risk of cancer especially in women older than 30 years old.
    • Avoid excessive sunlight and tanning beds –Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. Use broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun-protection factor (SPF) of 15 or greater, wear hats with a brim,  wear sunglasses, avoid sun exposure during peak hours (10:00 AM – 4 PM and avoid indoor tanning bed use are ways to help decrease your risk of skin cancer.
    • Obtain vaccinations against human papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis B vaccine (HBV) – We talked about vaccinations last week. HPV causes cervical, vulvar, vaginal, anal, and head and neck cancers. HBV cancer cause liver cancer and maybe associated with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Vaccination against HPV and HBV is key is preventing these cancers.
    • Engage is safe sex practices – USING CONDOMS is another strategy to decrease the risk of cancers associated with HPV.
    • Consider certain medicines – Aspirin has been shown to decrease risk of colorectal cancer. Birth control pills have been shown to decrease the risk of endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer and colorectal cancer. Metformin has been shown to decrease cancer risk overall in people with Type 2 diabetes. Please talk to your provider about Aspirin, birth control pills and/or Metformin.  There might be a reason why you are not a candidate to take any of these medicines.
    1. Undergo regular cancer screening – We have screening tests for breast cancer, cervical cancer, colon cancer and lung cancer. Although we do not have specific test for endometrial or ovarian cancer, being in tune with your body would be helpful. Talk to your provider about any abnormal bleeding. If you have bloating, abdominal or pelvic pain, feeling full easily, talk with your provider.

    Can cancer be prevented? Some can with the strategies that have been outlined.

    1Tergas, Ana, Wright, Jason. Cancer Prevention Strategies for Women. Obstetrics& Gynecology. 134 (1): 30 – 43, July 2019.

    2 Responses to “Can Cancer Be Prevented?”

    1. Thank you for these reminders!

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    Secure Your Copy of Sincerely, Your Gynecologist by Dr. Ngozi Osuagwu.

    With her trademark wit and straightforward communication, Dr. Osuagwu continues to dole out valuable medical advice using the letter form and addressing women’s health conditions and issues in a method that was praised for its innovative approach in her earlier award-winning book, Letters to My Sisters: Plain Truths and Straightforward Advice from a Gynecologist. In this book, each letter is paired with reference sources and statistics about the condition that is the subject of the letter.

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    Secure Your Copy of Letters to My Sisters by Dr. Ngozi Osuagwu.

    The book discusses common gynecological and women’s health issues in a series of witty and entertaining letters. These letters, all educational, offer suggestions on what approaches to take in tackling the medical problems that typically bring women to an ob/gynecologist. The letters are spiced with art, a poem and quotes. Although its emphasis is on gynecology and women’s health, it touches on some other medical issues that make women visit their doctors.

    The second half of the book briefly discusses the most common gynecological conditions and also provides an overview of sexually transmitted infections. A list of annotated websites dealing with the different topics in the book is provided for the reader who wants to pursue each subject in depth.

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